Mars Profile a Must Read

Things are going well for Mars, the maker of treats like M&Ms and Snickers.  A recent profile on the company by the Wall Street Journal summed it up this way:

While many U.S. food companies are closing factories and cutting staff, Mars Inc. recently opened its first new chocolate factory in the country in 35 years to feed Americans’ seemingly boundless hunger for sweets.

The $270 million plant boasts two production lines that can produce 8 million miniature Snickers candy bars and 39 million peanut M&M’s every day. At one end of the line, a waterfall of milk chocolate covers hundreds of tiny Snickers bars each minute, infusing the air with the smell of candy. The factory’s 500,000 square feet, kept carefully at 68 degrees so the chocolate doesn’t melt, include space for another three production lines so Mars can expand.

The article offered a small peak inside of a company that is privately held and usually keeps financial information close to the chest.

Mars discloses little about its finances, except to say that its annual revenue last year topped $33 billion—about 50% higher than in 2007, thanks largely to the 2008 acquisition of Wrigley. Chocolate is Mars’s second-biggest business globally, after pet care.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mars is battling Hershey for a bigger slice of the U.S. chocolate market, growing from 24% to 28% over the past year.

Sugar Subsidy Escalation Harms Africa

A Wall Street Journal article published in October detailed how the sugar subsidy race between Brazil, India, Thailand, and even China is now hurting poor farmers in Africa.

“For much of the past decade, African and foreign sugar companies have pumped billions of dollars into projects in an attempt to tap the sweet tooth of the continent’s new middle class. Today, mills in many countries are grappling with unsustainable stockpiles. The glut has forced companies to reduce output, put on hold new sugar projects and shutter mills.

“The culprit: cheap imports. African nations import about 5 million metric tons of sugar every year, from countries such as Brazil, China and India. The imports—generally heavily subsidized—are sold at prices lower than the cost of producing sugar locally, prompting African countries to shun sugar from their neighbors.”